France Digitale seizes the CNIL against Apple

According to the organization, Apple displays targeted advertising within its own applications without the explicit consent of users.

France Digitale, which represents 2,000 French start-ups, filed a complaint Tuesday morning against a major player in the application ecosystem: Apple. The organization asks the CNIL to look into certain practices of the American giant that do not comply with European rules on the protection of personal data. “We carried Apple, which presents itself as the champion of privacy, very high in our esteem. But it applies the principle “do what i say, not what i do“. It’s a form of hypocrisy that disappoints us terribly, ”explains Nicolas Brien, director of France Digitale, to Figaro.

Apple sells advertising space within the AppStore, as well as its Stock and News applications. The ads are targeted based on the behavior of the iPhone user within Apple services: what applications does he download, what articles does he read on News, which companies does he follow on the stock market? These personal data, collected by Apple, “are not communicated to other parties“Says the company, which therefore does not trade in the private information of iPhone owners. But France Digitale has noted the appearance of a problem with the arrival at the end of 2020 of the iOS 14 operating system.

«Sentiment d’injustice»

By default, the iPhone owner is considered to have consented to Apple showing them targeted advertising on their own applications. It’s up to him to go to his phone’s settings to deactivate this targeting if he wishes. For the organization, this way of doing things does not comply with the general data protection regulations (GDPR) and the European e-Privacy directive, where service providers must obtain the informed consent of users regarding the collection and analysis of their data.

«The feeling of injustice prevails», Continues Nicolas Brien. “Not a week goes by without one of our members being checked by the CNIL or another European gendarme. And alongside that, the world’s leading stock exchange, which has a battalion of lawyers at its disposal, hovers over the most basic principles of privacy. There is a double standard.“In its complaint, France Digitale calls on the CNIL to”take any measure aimed at putting an end to the practices thus denounced.»«What good are European regulations if they are only applied to small players?“Asks Nicolas Brien, who hopes that Paris will put the issue of Gafa regulation at the top of the priorities of the French presidency of the European Union, scheduled for early 2022.

Other planned actions

Apple reacted strongly to the initiative of France Digitale. “The claims in the complaint are patently bogus and will be seen for what they are, a poor attempt by those who stalk users to distract from their own actions and deceive regulators and policymakers», Retorted the American company in a statement sent to Figaro. “We operate to the highest standards in allowing users to opt out of Apple using data [qu’il collecte lui-même] for ad targeting purposes».

France Digitale plans other actions against the American giant with whom, he deplores, amicable dialogue would be impossible. The organization has already spoken out against Apple’s commercial practices and the commission, of 15 to 30%, which it levies on transactions made on the AppStore and which no one can avoid. This policy has been denounced by Spotify and Epic Games (Fortnite), and resulted in the company being surrounded by investigations for abuse of a dominant position.

But the smallest players in the applications sector dare not speak out on the subject for fear of reprisals. “Commercial relations between Apple and start-ups are muscular, even violent. It is Sicily in the 19th century and it is not acceptable. No business should cause such fear», Denounces Nicolas Brien. “Apple imposes a law of silence. France Digitale will play a role of shield for the ecosystem.»

The complaint of the ecosystem of French start-ups is added. The latter seized in the fall of the Competition Authority to request protective measures against the App Tracking Transparency (ATT), a new feature of iPhone scheduled for this spring. With ATT, application designers will have to ask Internet users for permission to share their personal data with third-party companies. “Apple designs the internet it wants and imposes its rules on an ecosystem without discussion”, Nicolas Rieul, president of the Internet Advertising Bureau France (IAB), told Le Figaro last month.


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